New Arrivals For July 2019

This month has been a month of two very different stories: guitars and pedals.

On the guitar front, I’ve been very fortunate to find a couple of guitars that blew my socks right off. Proper love-at-the-first-note through an amp fairytale stuff. Fairytales don’t always have a happy ending, mind, so do check back in the months ahead to learn whether these do (or don’t)!

Pedals have been much more of a mixed bag. Good deals have been hard to come by this month, with a lot of people chasing a smaller pool of 2nd hand gear. Maybe it’s the summer months, or maybe it’s the renewed uncertainty here in Britain atm? Either way, I hope things pick up.

I’m doing something a bit different this month. Rather than try and squeeze my first impressions into 3 or 4 paragraphs (to keep these ‘New Arrivals’ posts short), I’ve started breaking them out into separate posts that I’m linking to from here. It gives me a bit more space to talk about each piece of gear. Do you like it? Or do you prefer the ‘all-in-one’ format I’ve been using up to now? Let me know in the comments below.

Auden Artist Bowman 45 OM Acoustic Guitar

We did another small gig at the end of May – a 20 minute slot at a new open-mic night up in Malvern. I took the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster, and ran it straight into the PA. I did not enjoy the sound at all, and on the drive home I made up my mind to see if I’d be happier with a traditional acoustic guitar.

To be honest, I’d already started looking around for an acoustic guitar back in April, just after the first two gigs we did. I think there’s a difference between a recorded guitar tone and live guitar, and I think it matters for the kind of gigs we’re doing. The problem is that I don’t get on with acoustic guitars. They commonly have low, flat frets (which I find difficult to intonate well on), and normally when you plug them in, the magic goes away.

I’ve got a lot more to tell you about the Auden … but I haven’t been able to gig it yet. Once I have, I’ll feel a lot more confident about my opinions.

Fender Vintera 60s Modified Telecaster

This is what happens when I pop round to AStrings to take a look at new arrivals!

Earlier in the year, when I got my Fender American Performer Strat in Lake Placid Blue to celebrate a personal anniversary, I also took a look at the American Original Tele (also in Lake Placid Blue) that they had in stock … and I kinda warmed to it. I thought they’d make a nice pair together, but I took too long to make up my mind about it, and the guitar sold in the meantime.

The new Vintera (‘VINTage ERA’) guitars are Mexican-made homages to what Fender guitars were like in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I don’t want to say they’re a poor-man’s Fender Original, because I think that does them a big disservice.

Are they period-correct in appointments and sound? I’ve no idea, sorry. Do they sound good, and are they enjoyable to play? Very much so. The one I’ve bought had more magic than some USA Teles I’ve played. That’ll do me nicely.

Here’s my first impression of this excellent new Telecaster.

Mad Professor Big Tweedy Drive Pedal

I’ve made no secret of just how much I love the drive pedals that BJFe designed for Mad Professor. They are consistently some of the best sounding – and best stackable – pedals that I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. And I think that I have all of them in my pedal collection here at The Hermit’s Cave.

That partnership came to an end some time ago, and since then, Mad Professor has been launching new pedals that (presumably) are entirely their own design. I’m curious to discover … did the magic leave the building with the BJFe deal, or will these post-BJFe pedals stand up well against their older siblings?

The real problem with answering that question is getting hold of them. Twimble-family pedals have been turning up on the second hand market for a few years now, but the other drive pedals are still extremely rare, making good value deals even harder to find.

Follow this link to read my first impressions of the Big Tweedy.

Mad Professor Little Tweedy Drive

Like the Big Tweedy Drive, Mad Professor’s Little Tweedy Drive doesn’t often turn up to buy second hand. And I’m kinda settling on the sound of small tweed-like amps as part of ‘my’ sound, the more I think about what would go into my desert island rig.

It turned up on the same day as Danelectro’s Pride of Texas, and by popular demand, I compared them both together.

Long and short of it, though, is that the Little Tweedy Drive has a characteristic that almost ruins it for me. Follow that link for the full details.

Wampler Sovereign Distortion Pedal v2

Before I discovered and fell in love with the pedals that BJFe designed for Mad Professor, I used to have a few Wampler pedals. My wife and I both loved the demo tones we found on YouTube. In person, though, I really struggled to get tones I liked out of them, and eventually I gave up on Wampler and moved all the pedals on.

A lot has changed (for me, and my rig) in the years since, and when the right deal comes along, I’m picking up the pedals from back then to try them again. I’ll turn the results into a series of posts called ‘Second Bite’.

IIRC, the Sovereign was the very last Wampler pedal I tried back then. I was looking for a pedal to help me craft a good lead tone. I failed. Will I fail a second time?

Here’s my thoughts on my #SecondBite at this pedal.

Lovepedal JTM Drive Pedal

A lot of the non-BJFe pedals that I love (like the Tchula, and the Speaker Cranker), are all descended from the Electra Distortion circuit. I’ve had such fun with them that I’m always on the lookout for other pedals from the same family tree. It’s a bit like collecting TubeScreamers 😀

If I’ve got this right, the Electra Distortion was a module that could be fitted into an Electra guitar in the late 70s. It seems to be a really simple circuit that pedal makers have found to be very flexible and versatile. Lovepedal in particular are said to have based many of their designs on this circuit over the years.

I’m expecting the JTM to be a bit like the Big Tweedy Drive: more of a foundation pedal than a traditional overdrive pedal. Something to act as a base layer to shape the tone, if you like. Sounds like the perfect pedal for me to feature in #CoffeeAndKlon once it’s here 🙂

Here’s my first impression of the Lovepedal JTM. There’s a lot to like, when it’s boosted by the right pedal.

First Impression: Lovepedal JTM

Backstory :- we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heatwave, and it’s been a little too warm to play much guitar.

It’s much cooler today, and I’ve got half an hour to kill while I’m processing audio for a talk video. Let’s have a play with the Lovepedal JTM.

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I’m using my Tele this morning. Just got it back from a much-needed setup.

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The JTM is aiming for that pre-plexi Marshall sound. There’s a lot of other pedals in that space. As far as I know, the JTM is the only one that’s a one-knob wonder.

It seems to be what I call a foundation pedal. It changes the tone a lot. Very pushed mids, not a lot of low end. Didn’t like it at all into the blackface-style clean amp.

I like it a lot more into the Origin.

I suspect it would work best into a dirty amp as a combined tone shape & boost. I’ll have to get my Synergy rig setup to test that.

I’ve got the pedal almost gunned. Classic on the edge of breakup sound. Clean when lightly picked, a bit of crunch when I dig in. It’s quite a volume boost and, sadly, quite a noise boost too.

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It really suits the Telecaster’s bridge pickup. Definitely got that vintage 60s birth-of-rock tone and vibe about it.

It’s quite a cold sound, and with humbuckers it can be very waspish and brittle when gunned. This setting seems to be a good sweet spot if you’re using a Les Paul.

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Speaker choice seems important with this pedal, more important than most pedals that I’ve tried. If I run it through a G12M Creamback, that sorts out all the harshness I was hearing through the Celestion Blue.

That’s really nice now.

That coldness to the tone seems to suit the neck pickup in a Les Paul really well too. That’s a big bonus. I often struggle to get a nice clear sound with the neck pickup. With this pedal, it’s right there.

In summary: – it seems very locked-in on a single sound from the days of early rock – it seems voiced for classic rock speakers If you’re after that specific era, you’ll probably love this pedal.

Later That Same Day …

I’m messing about with the Lovepedal JTM again this evening. And I’m starting to think that the Xotic EP Boost might just be the perfect boost for the JTM.

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A Few Days Later …

I’ve been having a lot of fun running this pair of pedals – Xotic EP Booster into Lovepedal JTM – into the Marshall Origin. This might be my favourite crunch rock tone to date.

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New Arrival: Lovepedal JTM

Look what’s sheltering from the #heatwaveuk with me today: the Lovepedal JTM drive pedal.

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I’ve plugged it in to check it works. It’s 26C in here, which is too hot for me. Don’t want a valve amp making the room even warmer today.

It’ll have to wait for cooler weather before I spend quality time with it.

New Arrivals For April

Last month, I made a very unplanned purchase – the Custom Shop Les Paul Special. I got it for less than a brand-new Gibson USA Standard costs (not the first time that’s happened), but still … The next few months are going to be about exceptional bargains or rare items only – or things I need for gigging.

Not that it really matters. The 2nd hand gear market seems to have dried up quite badly this month. Even eBay “sell for £1” weekends haven’t had their normal impact. Will things pick up in May?

Here’s a list of all the new gear that arrived in April, along with my first impressions of each item. I’ll post a separate, detailed post about each item when I’ve had a bit of time to get to know it better.

Ramble FX Marvel Drive v3

Several years ago, I had a Marvel Drive v2. I couldn’t find a sound that I could use with my rig at the time, so I sold it on. Since then, my rig’s almost completely changed … so will I be any happier with the latest iteration?

If you haven’t heard of these before, they’re a Marshall-in-a-Box pedal. It chases the ‘plexi’ sound, so I’m assuming it’s more 1959 SuperLead than JTM 45? I believe that the original Marvel Drive was one of the very first pedals to offer the Marshall-style dual-gain circuits, just like the original amps did. I’m really looking forward to hearing this through the Origin and the Studio 10 6L6.

JRAD Archer (Silver) Klone

I’m a big fan of what a Klon can do to guitar tone. I’ve got a Klon KTR on my main pedal board and (along with the Lovepedal Amp 11) it ain’t ever coming off there. So I’m looking for a klone that can go on my grab-n-go board, or simply to throw on top of the Marshall Origin 20H when I’m trying out new pedals.

I’ve tried a few over the years, and they’ve all been great pedals. They just haven’t been drop-in replacements for the real thing. All the klones I’ve tried suffer from the same basic problem: they all add too much low-end. That makes them (imho) unusable for the Klon thing, as a mostly-clean EQ shift at the front of a signal chain.

When the explosion of klones started, JRAD and the Archer was at the very centre of it. Last count, they’ve made five different klones so far – and the silver Archer is the original. Will it exhibit the same issues as the competition, or have I finally found my KTR substitute?

My initial verdict: the jury’s out.

It doesn’t seem to be adding too much low-end, and the EQ lift is very pleasing to my ears. Running it into my somewhat boomy Blackstar Studio 10 6L6, I like what it does – and I like it a lot. It definitely makes that amp a hell of a lot more usable. I can easily see me wanting one of these permanently in front of one of these amps.

And yet … this second-hand copy has issues. When I stack it into a drive pedal, sometimes there’s additional noise and artefacts coming through. Depends on what I’m stacking it with, and it isn’t 100% of the time. It could be the pedal, it could be the noisy electric supply I have here (wouldn’t be the first time).

JRAD Archer (Clean) Klon Klone

As the month went on, I realised that I was really warming to the silver Archer pedal, and that I wanted to try some of the others in the JRAD Archer range. In particular, I wanted to see how they worked with my Taylor T5z, and whether they’d improve my gigging sound.

You probably know that there’s both a silver Archer and gold Archer Ikon. Did you know that there’s also a white one, called the Archer (Clean)? It’s a klone without the drive circuit. That’s how I use a Klon – as a clean boost. Is this going to be the klone I’ve been looking for?

Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope.

You may have noticed that my #1 complaint about klones is how they normally add too much bass? Not this one. It dumps so much bass, it just sucks the life right out of the tone in the room. There’s something not right with the top-end either – it’s either dull or brittle as anything.

I know plenty of folks (including several klone makers) love to take the piss out of the “magic diodes” in the original Klons. This pedal might have just made me a believer that, just maybe, those diodes actually do make a critical difference after all.

One caveat: in a mix, the tone-shaping this pedal does might actually sound great. I’ll make sure I test that out before doing a full writeup of this pedal.

Lovepedal Blackface Deluxe Overdrive Pedal

If I could only have one amp for the rest of time, it would be a Fender Deluxe Reverb Re-issue (or DRRI for short). Nothing else gives me both the cleans that I love and takes drive pedals so well.

I bought one of Blackstar’s new Studio 10 6L6 amps earlier in the year to get me into that kind of territory for practice at home. And it comes close enough for me. Just don’t try and get a driven tone out of it, because that’s where the illusion of a Deluxe-on-a-budget falls apart imho. (I’m not a fan of Blackstar’s driven tones).

Which is where this pedal comes in (I hope).

I had a lovely breakup tone within seconds, and one that puts the amp’s built-in drive to shame. Boost it with a klone, and I could happily spend the rest of the day noodling through it. Alas, my short break is over and I need to get back to it for the afternoon. But you can be damn sure where my evening is going to be going 🙂

Korg Pitchblack Advance Tuning Pedal

This is a pedal I needed for the gig I played at the start of the month.

I’ve been using TC Electronic’s Polytune headstock tuner, and by and large it does an okay job. It has a habit of switching itself over to the chromatic mode when it gets confused – which seems to be quite a lot of the time. With our set list requiring 3 different tunings (so, 4 retunings in total to return back to E Standard) in 30 minutes, that was time we felt we wanted to avoid losing.

I picked up this pedal because it was all that they had in stock at my local shop that afternoon.

I’m delighted with the Korg Pitchblack Advance. The all-black aesthetic meant it wasn’t at all eye-catching for the audience. The display is nice and big – much bigger than the Polytune pedal – making it easy for me to see during the gig. It’s true bypass, so it didn’t interfere with the signal at all. And I’ve no complaints over how accurate it is, or how quickly it worked out what note I was playing.

I will probably sell my Polytune pedals, and use the money to get a couple more of these to stick on my pedal boards.

Fulltone Plimsoul Overdrive Pedal

This is the Captain’s favourite drive pedal. He’s been using this on the Andertons videos for years, and it’s the one he always comes back to. As you can imagine, it’s hard to snag one of these at a great 2nd hand price. This month, I finally did.

It’s unlike any drive pedal that I can recall trying out. That’s a Good Thing(tm).

At its heart, there are two separate gain stages. Adjust the amount of each, and there’s quite a variety of tones to be discovered. It’s a bit like the bright-vs-normal channels of plexi amps and pedals, only the different gain stages seem to be in series rather than in parallel? They definitely offer different types of clipping.

I can see me using this pedal a lot.

JRAD Animal Tour Edition Pedal

It’s possible that there might just be even more Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) pedals than there are Tubescreamers out there, especially when you consider that most TS-style pedals are attempting to be clones rather than improved circuits.

The JRAD Animal Tour Edition pedal is JRAD’s 2nd attempt at nailing the sound of a late 60’s Marshall plexi amp. The original pedal (in JRAD’s larger, rather unique form factor) is much-beloved online. This 2nd attempt is simpler (no more voicing switch) and tweaked to get closer to the sound that JRAD is chasing.

Plugged it in, dialled in a crunch tone in seconds … and felt a bit underwhelmed by it at first. Then I looked up and realised that half an hour had just flown by. Wow factor be damned. I can see why other people choose this as their workhorse Marshall dirt box. It delivers that tone and then just neatly gets out of the way.

I’m willing to bet that this pedal records really well.

JRAD .45 Caliber Overdrive Pedal

JRAD’s .45 Caliber is the low-gain counterpart to their Animal pedal. This pedal covers the Marshall JTM45 territory, with the Animal covering the 1959 SuperLead plexi tones. Together, I’m hoping they’ll make up quite a versatile tone stack.

Running it into my Marshall Origin 20H, the first thing I had to do was check to see if the pedal was actually on. With the gain at 10 o’clock and the EQ controls at noon, I couldn’t hear any difference between the amp on its own, and the amp + pedal. I’m not sure whether that says more about the Origin, or the pedal.

Turn the gain up to 2 o’clock, tweak the EQ a little, and there’s a great overdriven not-quite-crunch tone to be had. Gun the gain, and the sound thickens more than anything else.

Seems that this is what I’d call a foundational pedal – and that’s no bad thing at all.

Seymour Duncan Dirty Deed Distortion Pedal

This will be my very first Seymour Duncan pedal. The name implies an AC/DC, Angus Young kind-of-vibe – so maybe another Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) to explore? It’s not a pedal that I’ve seen people really talk about, and – given the bargain price I managed to get it for – it’s not a pedal that’s sought after at the moment.

New Arrivals For March

So March has been and gone. In the end, February’s absolute deluge of available 2nd hand gear wasn’t repeated this month. But a road trip later in the month brought a chance encounter with something a little bit different …

These are my initial impressions of this month’s new arrivals. I’ll do full articles on each of them when I’ve had some time with them.

Fender American Performer Strat – Maple Board

I have two motives for buying this guitar.

My best-sounding Strat isn’t a Strat at all: it’s my American Deluxe Tele. I had the stock N3 Noiseless pickups (shudder!) replaced with a set of Twisted Tele pickups, and it gets very close to that Strat neck pickup tone. I’d just like to have that from an actual Strat. Preferably one with a maple fretboard.

(I do have an Elite Strat with the stock N4 noiseless pickups. With a little bit of help from the right pedal, they’ll give you a very nice Strat tone in a mix. They can sound a little dull outside a mix, especially if you’ve been playing true single-coil pickups first).

The second motive is all about making memories. I’m currently celebrating 4 years of starting my own business. It hasn’t been easy – and thanks to these historic times it’s about to get much, much harder – but it has definitely been one of the happier periods of my life.

Now, it just so happens that the Performer comes in a shade of blue that’s very similar to the colours I use in my business. A guitar that’ll last for decades and remind me of these moments in years to come? Yes, please.

It took a couple of hours to find a sound for me out of this guitar. I’m not sure why. This is not a deep, booming, Brian Blessed kind of Strat sound. It’s punchy, with a bit of bite, without quite straying into that Tele sharpness.

In the end, I found it by rolling the neck tone down to 7, and backing the neck volume off to around 9. Once I found that sweet spot, I didn’t want to put the guitar down for the rest of the evening.

I tell you what – being able to have both the neck and bridge pickups active at once … Fender should make that a standard wiring setup on all of their Strats. It sounds great on this guitar. I think it sounds even better on the American Performer with a rosewood fretboard.

Fender Vintage Tremolo Springs

My playing style relies on a lot of string bends, and that doesn’t fit so well with the new Strat’s floating trem. I don’t want to block the trem off by putting a piece of wood in the cavity to prevent it moving. There’s another way to tackle it.

This is a tip I got from Texas Blues Alley. I’ve used it before, and it worked well for me.

The basic idea is to replace the three stock tremolo block springs with five Fender Vintage tremolo springs. The Fender Vintage springs are lower tension, and if you use five of them, it’ll deck the tremolo and keep it decked during string bends. You can still do dives using a trem arm if you want.

Sadly, the first place I ordered from – Rich Tone Music in Sheffield – didn’t have any after all (grrr), despite their Amazon marketplace profile claiming that they do hold stock for immediate dispatch. Hopefully the next place I’ve tried will have them.

Yes, they did – and they arrived next day. Yay for retailers – Arcade Music in this case – who are transparent and honest about their stock levels.

Bare Knuckle 63 Veneer Single Coil Bridge Pickup

This is going into the new Strat. I’ve already got the matching neck and middle pickups sitting around. They were meant to go into my beloved Charvel, but I didn’t notice up front that the Charvel’s single coil routing doesn’t take standard Strat-shaped pups.

I actually don’t mind the stock Yosemite pickups. In person, they sound a lot better than I’ve heard them on demos. It’s just that – to my ears – they’re voiced to work really well in a live mix. That’s in keeping with this guitar being a gigging workhorse. They don’t quite have the low-end that I want for when I’m just noodling at home.

Will these pickups from Bare Knuckle give me that? I honestly don’t know. I’m much more experienced and comfortable choosing pickups for Les Pauls. The writeup looks promising, especially with talk of delivering a piano-like ring. That’s a property I personally want from any Strat I keep.

Update: I discovered that the low-end was being spirited away by a (possibly faulty) reverb pedal in my signal chain. The stock Yosemite pickups do have plenty of low-end piano plonk (I can’t think of a better way to describe it). I’m still going ahead with the pickup swap, but only because I’ve already got them.

Mr Black BB-74x Overdrive Pedal

I’ve seen a few of these come up for sale since the New Year, and finally found one at a great price. But what is it?

It aims to create the tones and feel of a “legendary 18W EL-84 combo”. Given the gold and black livery, I am assuming that means the Marshall 1974x 1×12 combo – aka the “mini Bluesbreaker”. It should sit somewhere between the Keeley 1962x Overdrive and the various plexi-type pedals that I have.

This’ll be my very first Mr Black pedal. I’m looking forward to it 🙂

With the new Strat, through the Origin 20H, it was okay but a little on the brittle side. Strap on a Les Paul, and this pedal rips. Of all the Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) pedals I’ve tried recently, this one struck me as having the thickest, fattest rhythm tone to date. No idea if it’ll record well, but in the room, it sounded fantastic. I didn’t want to stop playing.

Lovepedal Jubilee Overdrive Pedal

With the release of the new 20W Studio amps, everyone is talking about Marshall right now. And part of that conversation is about the Silver Jubilee – the amp that came after Guns and Roses and the release of Appetite for Destruction. At heart, they’re said to be a two-channel design based on the JCM800. I’ve never played the actual amp myself.

I’ve seen this pedal’s sweet spot described as the crunch channel from the Silver Jubilee amps. I’m hoping for something that sounds like a slightly more mid-forward JCM800, continuing the generational trend of smoothing off the harshness of the highs without becoming dull.

This pedal did not disappoint. Only took a couple of minutes to dial in the sweet spot, and there it is … the sound-in-my-head of 90s rock rhythm. That slightly thinner-than-you-realise, cleaner-than-you-realise rock crunch should sit and breathe so well in an actual mix. And it sounds great in the room through the Origin 20H.

It’s said that the Alexander Silver Jubilee pedal compliments this one very well – that it acts like a compressed Silver Jubilee lead channel. Makes me wish I’d picked one up in January when there were several being offered …

Carl Martin AC Tone Overdrive Pedal

I enjoyed the Carl Martin Plexitone pedal that I picked up in January. When I saw their AC Tone pedal come up at a bargain 2nd hand price, I thought it’d be a good way to dip my toe in the waters.

You can ask the folks over at AStrings, and they’ll happily (and honestly) tell you that I don’t understand the tone of the mighty Vox AC30 amp, and that I haven’t the faintest clue about how to harness it. It’s completely alien to me.

That translates to using this pedal. I thought the Plexitone was bright? Through the Marshall Origin, this thing’ll slice your head off if you’re using a Strat. Dial it back a bit, and the result is one of the most mid-forward tones that I can remember. I can’t think of another way to describe it.

It’s not my thing. And that’s exactly why I need to put some time into exploring this pedal and what it does. How else do we learn and grow?

Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret Mk3 Overdrive Pedal

When it comes to lists of the greatest Marshall-in-a-Box (MIAB) pedals, the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret is normally at or very near the top. After the Tubescreamer, is there a more crowded market than plexi pedals? And how does this compare to some of the great pedals I’ve already been able to try over the years?

My first few minutes with it were filled with the hum of a grounding problem. Was this going to be my first faulty 2nd hand pedal? Thankfully not. Eventually traced the problem to using a TRRS cable from the pedal into the amp. Swapped it out for a normal TRS cable, and the grounding problem was solved. Phew.

It doesn’t have that immediate sweet spot that both the Mr Black BB-74x or Lovepedal Jubilee had. All the controls seem to be highly interactive with big ranges, and the key seems to be finding the right amount of mids first. I was able to dial in a very satisfying crunch rhythm tone from there.

There’s a clarity to it that’s very pleasing, with great string separation. It’s also more compressed than other plexi pedals, and it resisted my initial attempts to boost it with the Echoplex Pre. It’s possible I just need to use a different balance between the ‘preamp’ and ‘master’ controls on the pedal. We’ll see.

Nope. This pedal has very low input headroom. Even medium-output pickups can be too hot to use with it. That’s a big surprise, and for me a very big disappointment. Most rock guitars today don’t have low-output pickups.

MXR il torino Overdrive Pedal

I’ve no idea what this pedal does. No, really. I’ve never heard it in a standalone demo. It’s a pedal that I’ve seen multiple times on professional musicians’ pedal boards, and that’s enough for me to take a punt on a 2nd hand example.

It’s got two modes – a boost, and an overdrive.

The boost mode has plenty of output, and by balancing the gain and master controls on the pedal, it got the Origin 20H cooking nicely. It sounds like it adds a lot of colour to the tone. I’ll need to compare it against some dedicated boost pedals to form an informed opinion.

As a rhythm tone, the overdrive has a nice balance between crunch and smoothness all at the same time. It’s the kind of sound that I believe will sit nicely in the mix. It won’t stand out – and sometimes, that’s exactly what’s required.

Can it take on lead duties? Although it’s a bit compressed, it doesn’t add anything like as much sustain as I expected. When I’ve got time to sit with this pedal for longer, I’ll try slamming it with a dedicated compressor to see if I can get it to sing.

Suhr Riot Distortion Pedal

After getting Suhr’s Shiba Drive recently, I wanted to pick up a Riot pedal too just to complete the set. I like the idea of having the Shiba Drive as a rhythm pedal (doing the Tubescreamer thing of pushing an amp), and using the Riot to kick over into lead tone territory.

I’m expecting both of these pedals to sound really good into the Synergy Plexi module that I also picked up recently 🙂 Alas though, I won’t be able to make it sound anything like as good as Pete Thorn does. I just don’t have his talent.

Running it straight into my Marshall Origin 20H – a clean amp – I liked this pedal a lot more than I was expecting to. I had Joyo’s clone many years ago, and that didn’t do much for me. It’s a nice thick tone that made me think of the MXR il diabolo that I picked up recently.

Red Llama Overdrive Clone

This is another of the many clones from the same hobbyist who made my favourite boost pedals (and those fuzz pedals from last month). I like the quality of his work so much that, whenever I see something from him that I don’t already have, I’m always tempted.

I must admit though that I’d never heard of the Red Llama Overdrive, and had to go and google it. Way Huge are one of those brands that have completely passed me by. Not a brand I’ve tried, and not a brand that people I know ever seem to talk about.

This is the kind of pedal that suits Les Pauls to a T. Roll back your volume to make this pedal growl. Go full blast for a thick, heavily-clipped, violin-like lead tone. It has a very satisfying wide frequency range, with plenty of bass and that 3D-like upper mids and presence.

Gibson Custom Les Paul Special w/ Maple Cap

I’ve been travelling for work, and I found this particular guitar hidden away in a little shop up in Leeds. I was on the hunt for a 2nd Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster to be my backup / alternate-tuning guitar for the upcoming gigs. Certainly wasn’t planning on buying another Gibson this year.

So what convinced me to bring it back with me? Well, it’s a bit unusual, a bit different to the Les Pauls I’ve seen and played before.

This one’s a Custom Shop model made in 2017. It’s got two P90s – I’ve never had a guitar with that combination before. Normally, LP Specials are all-mahogany. This one has a maple cap, although you wouldn’t know it just to look at it. And it’s got the same neck profile as a Les Paul Custom – perhaps my favourite neck profile of all.

I’m hoping to pair it up (for recording purposes) with Ghost – my 2015 Les Paul Custom – and with Morag – my 2018 Ragh Guitars RPJ. I’m a great believer in finding guitars with complementary tones. Fingers crossed that I’ve done exactly that.

Back home and through my rig, and the tone surprised me. With the factory strings, the tone was bright and harsh in the room – not at all the thick mid-rangy monster that Morag is. Changing the strings (I put a set of NXYL 10-46s on it) tamed the harshness nicely. Still a bright – dare I say vintage – tone? Reminds me of how my Les Paul R0 sounds compared to a modern Les Paul Standard.

I’m left with a question for myself: do I keep it stock, or do I swap out the Gibson Custom P90s for a set that’ll sound a bit different? A decision I’m not making this month.

New Arrivals For January

The turning of the year can be a great time to hunt for new (to you) guitar gear. The second hand market is normally flooded with folks who are moving on gear they no longer want – or sadly can no longer afford to keep. And there’s Winter NAMM, where brands large and small drop announce new products.

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some stuff that I’m interested in, and I thought I’d share it with you. Some of it is new to me, and some of it is me taking a second look at things I’ve had before but didn’t gel with. And there’s a few very special items too.

I’m going to do full articles on each of them, once I’ve had a bit of time with them. For now, here’s the very first impressions for you.

The Acoustasonic Telecaster

Fender’s big announcement at Winter NAMM 2019 was this unusual-looking thing. It’s a Telecaster that sounds like an acoustic guitar.

I know, right?

I was away on a business trip when the announcements came out, and my reaction was the same as pretty much everyone else’s – meh. It seems like such a gimmick. And it isn’t helped by being priced around the same as an Elite Telecaster or Stratocaster.

But when I got back home, and was able to listen to the demos – especially the Andertons and Reverb demos – my opinion changed. It sounded so, so good. Hear for yourself:

Normally, this wouldn’t be my thing. But I’ve just started weekly rehearsals for a gig (hopefully in April), and we’re doing an acoustic set. This new Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster seems perfect for that – even better than the Taylor T5z.

I’ll be using it at rehearsal for the first time on Wednesday. I’m already looking forward to it.

Lovepedal Tchula Black Mamba

Lovepedal’s legendary Tchula pedal, in its Black Mamba variant

Lovepedal’s Tchula pedal is right up there with the Klon Centaur and Analogman’s King of Tone as a fully-fledged member of the Legendary Pedals Club. Don’t @ me.

At its heart, the Tchula is two COT50 boost pedals stacked together. One side is a fixed boost, and the other side has (I believe) a bias pot so that you can dial in to taste. There are several different variants, and (with the exception of the Mississippi Tchula) each variant sports a different take on the COT50 to give a slightly different tone.

I managed to snag the Black Mamba Tchula. This variant is said to be a little warmer than the original gold Tchula designed for Josh Smith. Sounds ideal for a bright amp like my Origin 20 🙂

AEA Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

AEA’s Nuvo N22 Ribbon Microphone

I was watching a video on Chicago Music Exchange’s YouTube channel over Christmas (I think it was this one on the new Fender American Performer Telecaster), and I was stunned by the sound quality.

Here was a mic capturing all the mid-range we’d expect, and with all the body that we love for home tone. There’s plenty of top-end too; it doesn’t sound like someone threw a blanket over it.

The mic they were using was a ribbon mic, the AEA Nuvo N22. And it was just my luck that a 2nd hand one turned up earlier this month.

Literally all I’ve done with it so far is plugged it in to make sure it wasn’t DOA. When I’ve got some free time (haha I wish) it’s going to get used for making Kemper profiles and on some female vocals.

Mad Professor 1 Brown Sound Pedal

Mad Professor’s 1 Pedal. The Eddie Van Halen sound in a box.

Speaking of Kemper profiles, I’ve started thinking about collecting as many Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedals as possible. I think it’d be handy to have a wide palette of Marshall-like tones to hand.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of Mad Professor pedals. So when a couple of these 1 pedals came up on the 2nd hand market this month for a really good price, I thought it was a good idea finally pick one of these up.

How can I describe it? It’s basically got two settings – high gain, and melt-your-face-off gain. As you’d expect, it’s a one-trick pony (most MIAB pedals are), but what a trick. It gives you that perfect 80s hair-metal tone that we all wished we actually had back in the day.

Carl Martin PlexiTone Drive Pedal

The PlexiTone overdrive pedal from Carl Martin.

This is another Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB) pedal that I’ve seen plenty of but never heard before. I can’t remember seeing any demos of this up on YouTube. So I was curious to try it – if one came available at a good price on the second hand market.

I’m glad I did.

With all these MIAB pedals, there’s a risk that most of them will sound pretty much the same. After all, they’re all chasing the same iconic tone. But here’s the funny thing about tone – we all hear something different. And that can be seen in how different all these MIABs often are.

The PlexiTone has a 70s rock feel about it. It’s brighter (cutting, even), and thinner than the pedals that chase the 80’s hair metal sound. It makes me want to sit here and play old Thin Lizzy riffs – if only I knew some!

Lovepedal Eternity E6

The Lovepedal Eternity E6. As made famous by Capt Anderton.

Although it’s not marketed as such, the Lovepedal Eternity pedals have always been lumped into the Marshall-in-a-box category. There’s been a lot of variants over the years, but perhaps the best known one is the E6. Capt Anderton used to use one on all the Andertons videos, and his signature Lovepedal Stax Master dual-drive pedal featured the E6 on one side.

I used to have one a few years ago, and I moved it on because I thought it was too noisy. Since then, I’ve made a lot of improvements to the quality of my rig, and I thought it was a good idea to try this again.

I’ll be honest – it didn’t stay out of its box for very long. It arrived around the same time as the Tchula, and that Tchula is a magical wonder to behold. The pedal isn’t noisy (yay!), but I was finding it hard to dial in the ‘glass’ control to suit. I think I need a bit more time with it, and to be dialling in the amp more than the pedal.

Xotic Effects EP Booster

The EP Booster from Xotic. Based on the Echoplex preamp.

Now here’s another pedal that I had noise concerns about, before it arrived.

I’ve never owned one before. I’ve had two other Xotic pedals, and one reason I flipped both of them is that I wasn’t at all happy with how noisy the pedals were. I chain pedals together for my recorded tone, and if a pedal has a high noise floor, all that noise gets magnified to distraction in a pedal chain.

Again, since them I’ve made important improvements to my rig, and I need to revisit old experiences to see if they’re no longer valid. That, and the Echoplex Preamp is one of my favourite boost pedals. I was curious to see how the EP Booster compared.

Both pedals are based on the preamp circuit of the legendary Echoplex tape delay unit. The preamp circuit adds colour to the tone in a way that’s really pleasing.

My main pedal board needs completely stripping down and rewiring from scratch. So I haven’t been able to compare the EP Booster to the Echoplex Preamp pedal yet. I have run it into my Marshall Origin, and I didn’t hear any noise problems there. But the jury’s still out until I’ve built the new board and tested it there.

Suhr Shiba Drive

The Shiba Drive, from Suhr.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about this at all. One of my eBay searches is for Suhr guitars, and every now and then a genuine Suhr pedal turns up in the search results too. (The Suhr Riot is one of those pedals that all the usual suspects have cloned over the years).

It isn’t marketed as such, but I’m tempted to say that this falls squarely into the TubeScreamer segment of the pedal market. Only, you can definitely use it into a clean amp – something the TS isn’t strong at. It’s definitely a pedal to sit in the mix. I’m looking forward to using it to drive my Synergy Amps rig at some point.

Wampler Tumnus Deluxe

I’m sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this one before sitting down to write this blog post.

Just before NAMM, Wampler put up a post on Facebook that strongly suggested that the Tumnus Deluxe was about to disappear from the range. I had a look round, saw that it was out of stock almost everywhere, and managed to buy one of the last few I could find in the UK.

Yeah, I paid full price for this one.

Turns out, the Estate of CS Lewis have objected to the name of the pedal, and forced Wampler to rename it. At the time of writing, all the Wampler folks are at Winter NAMM, so there’s no-one around to update their website and it isn’t 100% clear what the pedal’s new name will be (the GOAT perhaps?) That’s going to be the only change. The circuit will remain the same.

I bought this thinking it was going to be discontinued. I’ve mixed feelings on the news that it’s just getting a name change. I feel a bit mislead by Wampler, but at the same time I’m glad that you’ll still be able to get this pedal.

Because it’s great.

All the Klon klones I’ve tried so far – including Wampler’s own Tumnus mini-pedal – have a flaw in the bass tone when used as a boost pedal. Every single one of them gets very bassy. And that’s something my Klon KTR just doesn’t do.

The Tumnus Deluxe has an active bass control on it – something that’s rare (if not unique) amongst Klones. Perfect. It also has a ‘hot’ switch, so that it can be used as an overdrive pedal all by itself. I haven’t spent very long with it so far, but I was able to dial in a lovely open dirt tone straight into my Marshall Origin 20.

As the main pedal board is out of action atm (see earlier in this post), I haven’t been able to compare the Tumnus Deluxe to the KTR. I probably won’t either, as I’ve got the KTR dialled in exactly how I like it, and I’d hate to adjust it at all.

Your New Arrivals?

So those are my new arrivals for January. And most likely for February too (at least)!

What gear have you managed to pick up for Christmas? Which ones got away? What have you got your eye on for later in the year? (That new green finish for the Silver Sky has certainly turned a few heads …)

Leave a comment below!

That Pedal Show: Josh Smith Board and Lesson

It’s a long one this week – even by their standards – which is why I’ve only just gotten to it.

Dan and Mick take a tour of Josh’s board, including an in-depth look at the Lovepedal Tchula. The Tchula was Josh’s idea. It’s basically two Church of Tone (COT) pedals in one enclosure, with the left hand side fixed at Josh’s favourite setting, and the right hand side adjustable to suit. I can’t think of anything else quite like it.

I loved the segment where the guys had a schwang on Josh’s Tele, which is strung with 13s (!!) It’s fascinating to listen to how different each of them sound, playing the same guitar through the same rig.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment in you enjoy their video.